There are times you walk outside, and you can feel change in the air. Maybe it's a cool breeze from the north. Maybe it's the smell of gardenia in the spring. Perhaps it's the first winter swell of the season. All of these are signs that we are moving out of one phase or era, and we are moving into a new one.
Today, the Hawai'i Writers Conference kicked off. Leaving my hotel room this morning at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach, I noticed the usual scent of salt air wafting off the beach. I felt the warm sun on my face and the blanket of warmth on my body. But these are not unusual for Hawai'i--no matter what time of year.
Sometimes, as many of us have learned over the past year, change can sneak up on us like tornadic water spouts. Other times, we see change coming way in advance like, thanks to technology, hurricanes.
I did not see today's change coming. After the three generations of the Kanaka'ole family shared oli (chants), after five-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner Kaumakaiwa sang mele (songs), after founder of HawaiiSlam Kealoha performed poetry, and after slack key guitarist and singer Makana played two songs on his slack key guitar, it hit me. I finally got it. "Something new is going on here," I wrote in my notebook. The conference program sums it up as, "Voices of Hawai'i."
Sure, you'll still find authors, agents, editors and emerging writers talking about fiction, nonfiction and screenwriting. But, now, conference directors John and Shannon Tullius are adding more forms of storytelling to the Hawai'i Writers Conference. They include spoken word, slam poetry and songwriting. Maybe one day, they will even include hula.
I've attended the Hawaii Writers Conference (formerly Maui Writers Conference) four out of the past five years, and I can easily say this opening was the most powerful. I cried. I laughed. I stood with my mouth open, shaking my head, holding my hand to my heart.
Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona spoke before the performances began. He said he defines "aloha" as the art and spirit of giving and receiving. "When we give," he said, "We don't expect anything in return. And when we receive, we give something back."
Today, the youth of Hawai'i--Kaumakaiwa, Kealoha and Makana--gave. The rest of us sat in the audience and received. In return, we shared our appreciation. There were more standing ovations this morning than I can count on one hand. I may not have felt the change coming this morning, but I sure could feel the aloha in the room. For sure.
By the way, you can follow my Twitter updates--quotable quotes from authors, agents, editors and fellow writers--throughout the conference by follwing @outriggerhawaii.